Unit 1 revision

How to pass Edexcel Politics AS Unit 1

Unit one exam revision advice

Edexcel AS GCE in Government & Politics (8GP01) - Advice - Andrew Heywood

- Assessment objective 1 (AO1) Knowledge and understanding (includes evidence and examples)

- Assessment objective 2 (AO2)

(a)     Ability to analyse (i.e. identify component features & show how they relate to one another)
(b)     Ability to evaluate (make judgements – judgements about significance and judgements about value)
(c)      Ability to identify parallels, connections, similarities and differences (comparisons and contrasts)
- Assessment objective 3 (AO3)

(a)    Ability to construct and communicate coherent arguments
(b)   Use appropriate political vocabulary
Unit 1 – People and Politics


·         Written examination: 1 hour 20 minutes
·         Students will be required to answer two structured questions from a choice of four
·         Each question will have a mark tariff of 5, 10 and 25 marks
·         Question a) = 5 marks AO1
·         Question b) = 7 marks AO1 and 3 marks AO2
·         Question c) = 8 marks AO1, 9 marks AO2 and 8 marks AO3
·         Total marks for the examination = 80 marks (1 mark = 1 minute)

1. Democracy and participation

1a - Nature of democracy (addressed in a) and b) questions only)
·         Note: questions will no longer be asked about power and authority, but legitimacy remains a named concept
·         What is democracy? Origins of the term. Major decisions in society are made, directly or indirectly, by the people, with each citizen having and equal right to have a say and make his or her view count - role of political participation and political equality. Types of democracy
·         Direct democracy – Direct, unmediated and continuous participation. Mass meetings (Athenian democracy), referendums, jury principle (lot or rota – focus groups/citizens’ juries etc). Advantages – e.g. genuine democracy; personal development; end of professional politics; legitimate government
·         Representative democracy – Limited, indirect and mediated participation. Role of popular control/public accountability. Role of elections. Advantages – e.g. practicable democracy; government by experts; division of labour in politics; political stability
·         Liberal democracy – Representative democracy and limited government. Varieties of liberal democracy – constitutional democracy and majoritarian democracy

1b - Democracy in the UK

·         Features of the UK’s democratic system – Core features – democratic elections (e.g. free and fair elections; universal suffrage; electoral choice); role of Parliament (parliamentary democracy); pressure groups (pluralist democracy). Supplementary features (often more recent) – referendums; devolution; European elections.
·         Criticisms of UK democracy – Non-elected bodies; Westminster electoral system; weak Parliament; undemocratic group power; EU democratic deficit etc. Debates about the nature of UK democracy – majoritarian/executive democracy; a more typical example of a liberal democracy?
·         Participation/legitimacy crisis – Nature and extent of crisis (particularly trends in electoral turnouts and party membership). Possible causes of participation crisis – decline in social capital; behaviour of politicians; influence of the media; consensus politics; foregone outcome etc.

1c - Enhancing democracy (proposed reforms aimed at extending participation or strengthening public accountability)

·         Widening opportunities for direct democracy - Referendums (note: questions will no longer be set of the circumstances of referendums, unless these become more frequent again) advantages and disadvantages. Citizens’ juries/focus groups etc - advantages and disadvantages. Digital democracy/e-democracy - advantages and disadvantages
·         Strengthening electoral/representative processes - Lowering the voting age advantages and disadvantages. Compulsory voting – advantages and disadvantages (Note: these are not exclusive lists, but highlight some of the reforms debated most recently. Worthwhile for students to know about other possible ‘solutions’)

2. Party policies and ideas (For teaching purposes, use (1) policies at most recent general election; (2) policies outlined at party conferences; (2) Queen’s speech (government’s legislative programme and opposition responses); (4) update as year progresses.)

2a - Nature of political parties (addressed in a) and b) questions only)

·         What is a political party? Winning government power; broad issue focus; shared preferences and values, etc. Differences between parties and pressure groups. Types of parties – programmatic parties and catch-all parties.
·         Functions of parties – Representation; policy formulation; recruitment of leaders; organization of government; participation and mobilization of electorate, etc.

2b - Traditions and policies of the major parties (Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats – but the only ‘named’ parties in questions will be Labour and the Conservatives). 

·         Note: this section and the next are best taught together, not discretely. The topics can be taught in two ways: chronologically (post-war social democratic consensus; Thatcherism and Blairism/New Labour), or party by party (Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrats)
·         Note: extended questions will not be set solely on the main party ideologies (liberalism, socialism and conservatism), but they may be set on sub-traditions, such as Thatcherism and New Labour. 
·         Post-war social democracy - Old Labour and One Nation conservatism. Key ideas/policies – e.g. mixed economy; economic management; ‘cradle to grave’ welfare.
·         Rise of Thatcherism - The breakdown of social democracy (changing class system (class dealignment) globalization etc). Key ideas – economic Thatcherism/neoliberalism (e.g. privatization; reduced union power; taxation; deregulation). Key ideas – social Thatcherism/neoconservatism (e.g. ‘tough’ law and order; traditional values; national patriotism (Euroscepticism).
·         Blairism and New Labour – Labour Party modernization. Key ideas/policies – e.g. market economics; constitutional reform; ‘third way’ welfare; strengthening responsibility.
·         Contemporary party politics - Blairism after Blair. Key ideas/policies of Brown – e.g. constitutional renewal; supply-side economics; opportunity for all; welfare reform. Ideological tensions within Labour. Conservatives under Cameron. Key ideas/policies – e.g. green themes; tax cuts; social liberalism; fraternity without the state; social inclusion. Liberal Democrat ideas and policies.

2b - Comparing party policies and ideas

·         Consensus politics – Nature of consensus politics. Consensus tendencies in UK politics (implications of two party systems and Westminster voting system – major parties compete for centre ground). The post-war social democratic consensus. Extent of consensus in contemporary politics – a post-Thatcherite consensus?
·         Adversary politics – Nature of adversary politics (not adversarialism). Adversary tendencies in UK politics (re-establishing electoral credibility through ideological renewal). Adversary politics in 1980s
·         Note: questions will not be asked about party systems or the internal organization of parties, although an awareness of these will be useful in helping to explain policy and ideological shifts in parties.

3. Elections (Note: no questions will be asked about voting behaviour, although a basic awareness of class dealignment and partisan dealignment is helpful in understanding party policies and ideas, above.)

3a - Elections and democracy (addressed in a) and b) questions only)

·         Nature of elections – Differences between elections and referendums
·         Functions of elections – Forming governments; ensuring representation; upholding legitimacy
·         Elections and democracy – Features of democratic elections (universal suffrage; one person, one vote; secret ballot; party and candidate competition)
·         Elections and representation – Competing models of representation and their limitations (Burkean representation/trusteeship; doctrine of the mandate; descriptive/characteristic/microcosmic representation)

3b - Elections in the UK

·         Voting systems used in the UK – Differences between majoritarian and proportional voting systems. Features (workings) of ‘first past the post’ (FPTP, or single-member plurality system – SMP); additional member system (AMS); single transferable vote (STV); regional party list; supplementary vote (SV).
·         Implications of FPTP – Disproportionality; systematic biases; two-party systems; single-party government; landslide effect.
·         Implications of proportional systems – Greater proportionality; multi-party systems; coalition or minority government; consensus-building. Awareness of different levels of proportionality amongst PR systems.

3c - Debating voting systems

·         Awareness of the state of the electoral reform debate – Parties’ stances on voting systems; reasons for introduction of PR systems since 1997; likelihood of reform of Westminster voting system
·         Reforming the Westminster voting system – Advantages of FPTP (e.g. electoral choice; constituency representation; mandate democracy; strong government). Disadvantages of FPTP (e.g. unfairness; wasted votes; bogus majorities; unaccountable government; adversarialism)
·         Debating PR systems – Advantages and disadvantages of AMS, STV, regional party list and SV.
·         Note: extended questions will not be set on solely on particular voting systems, except FPTP.

 4. Pressure groups

4a - Nature of pressure groups (addressed in a) and b) questions only)

·         Defining pressure groups – Features of pressure groups (e.g. influence government policy; narrow issue focus; united by shared interests or belief in a cause).
·         Pressure groups and political parties – Differences between pressure groups and parties. Similarities/overlaps between groups and parties (e.g. problem of small parties; motivation for putting candidate up for elections; social movements)
·         Functions of pressure groups – Representation; participation; education; policy formulation; policy implementation, etc
·         Types of pressure groups – Features of interest/sectional groups and cause/promotional groups; criticisms of distinction. Features and examples of insider and outsider groups, and sub-groups; criticisms of distinction.

4b - Pressure group power

·         Nature of pressure group power – Types of power (e.g. influencing government policy; setting political agenda; changing values and political preferences)
·         Pressure group methods – Target minister and civil servants; Parliament; political parties; public opinion; direct action, etc.
·         Power of individual groups – Pluralism v. elitism debate. Influence of wealth, size, organization, leadership, government’s views, popular support, opposing forces, etc.
·         General influence of pressure groups – Becoming more powerful – e.g. growth of cause groups; rise of protest movements; more points of access; globalization. Becoming less important e.g. post-corporatism; ‘chequebook’ participation.

4c - Pressure groups and democracy

·         Pluralist democracy and its critics
·         Promoting democracy - Supplementing electoral democracy; opportunities for participation; political education; widening distribution of power, etc
·         Threatening democracy - Increasing political inequality; non-legitimate power; ‘behind the scenes’ influence; minority interests threaten majority/public interest, etc.
·         Note: questions may focus on democracy in general or on the effectiveness of groups in promoting participation (overlaps with ‘general influence of groups’ above).

 Edexcel AS GCE in Government & Politics - Advice on assessment - Andrew Heywood

In the revised GCE 2008 specification, marks will be awarded separately by each assessment objective, not holistically as before. This places a greater stress on the need to understand the various assessment objectives and to be aware of their implications for particular questions.

Understanding assessment objectives

Assessment objective 1 (AO1)

·         Knowledge (suggests breadth)
·         Understanding (suggests depth)

Demonstrated, for example, by:

·         Naming something
·         Setting out features/characteristics
·         Describing functions
·         Surveying information
·         Defining terms
·         Describing differences
·         Supplying examples

Marks for AO1 are gained for accuracy (is it true or false?) and thoroughness (is it comprehensive or limited/superficial?)

Assessment objective 2 (AO2)

2a Analysis (the ability to identify the component features of something and to show how they relate to one another)

Demonstrated, for example, by:

·         Examining something closely
·         Providing explanations (setting out purposes or reasons, or highlighting causal relationships)
·         Demonstrating interconnections

2b Evaluation (the ability to make judgements about something, either about the about its significance or its value)

Demonstrated, for example , by

·         Assessing extent (judging how far something happens)
·         Measuring effectiveness (judging how far something fulfils its purpose)
·         Weighing up importance (judging the impact of something)
·         Criticising a viewpoint or statement (judging the strength of an argument)
·         Arguing to a conclusion (judging the respective strengths of competing viewpoints)

2c Identification of parallels, connections, similarities and differences

Demonstrated, for example , by

·         Showing how two or more things resemble one another, or are connected
·         Judging the balance between similarities and differences

Assessment objective 3 (AO3)

3a Ability to construct and communicate coherent arguments

Demonstrated, for example , by

·         Organising points in a logical order
·         Having a clear line of argument
·         Giving appropriate attention to competing viewpoints
·         (Where appropriate) reaching a conclusion

3b Use of appropriate political vocabulary

Demonstrated by the use of specialist terminology, relevant to the question

Question types

Structured questions (Unit 1)

·         Questions are divided into three parts – (a), (b) and (c)
·         (a) questions = 5 marks (5 marks AO1)
·         (b) questions = 10 marks (7 marks AO1; 3 marks AO2)
·         (c) questions = 25 marks (8 marks AO1; 9 marks AO2; 8 marks AO3

Focus of questions:

·         (a) questions - these are generally defineoutline, identify or distinguish questions - about the meaning of key terms or the ability to provide information
·         (b) questions – these are generally explain questions – providing detailed or fuller information; outlining a viewpoint
·         (c) questions – these are generally debate questions – making a case, assessing a political viewpoint or discussing an issue

Source questions (Unit 2)

·         Questions are divided into three parts – (a), (b) and (c)
·         (a) questions = 5 marks (5 marks AO1)
·         (b) questions = 10 marks (7 marks AO1; 3 marks AO2)
·         (c) questions = 25 marks (8 marks AO1; 9 marks AO2; 8 marks AO3)

Focus of questions:

·         (a) questions – these are closely linked to the source (or sources); they rely heavily on comprehension skills
·         (b) questions – these are based on the source (or sources), but answers should also draw on a candidate's own knowledge and understanding
·         (c) questions – these are less related to the source (or sources), and should largely be constructed on the basis of a candidate's own understanding and intellectual skills

Extended questions (Unit 2)

·         40 Marks (20 marks AO1; 12 marks AO2; 8 marks AO3)

Structure of extended responses:

·         Answers should have a beginning (introduction), a middle (argument) and an end (conclusion)

·         Introductions should:

o    define key terms used in the question
o    show an understanding of 'the point' of the question (the issue or issues it raises)
o    (optional) outline the line of argument to be adopted, possibly indicating the conclusion favoured

·         Arguments should:

o    Make points in a logically related order
o    Consider contrasting viewpoints or positions as appropriate (for/against, advantages/disadvantages, benefits/drawbacks, etc)
o    Support points with appropriate evidence (make a point and prove it)
o    Qualify points wherever appropriate (make a point and qualify it – 'However …' 'On the other hand …')
o    Argue to a conclusion (don't 'sit on the fence', unless the question asks you to)

·         Conclusions should:

o    Be clear and short
o    Start with a one-sentence answer to the question set ('In conclusion, …')
o    Briefly summarise the key factors that support this conclusion (new material should not be introduced at this stage)

Command words

The meaning of common command words:

Break something into its component parts and show how they relate to one another
Present a reasoned case
'Weigh up' a statement, showing arguments in favour and against
Identify similarities
Identify differences
Explain problems, limitations or weaknesses
Say what a word or phrase means
Set out features or characteristics
Examine an issue closely, taking account of differing viewpoints
Describe differences
Make judgments based on evidence
Investigate closely
Show how something works, usually by giving a clear and detailed account of it
Name or set out main features
Set out main characteristics
Express clearly
Present principal points without detail

Terms that are sometimes confused:

The characteristics that define what something is
The roles that highlight what something does

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